MoneyZen podcast creator Manisha Thakor sits down to chat with The BAM ALLIANCE’s Meredith Boggess about the power of storytelling, what inspired her to launch this new project, and how it fits into the way we’ve come to seek out and then consume financial information.
Q: What prompted the idea for this podcast?
A: I’ve been thinking about this forever! Two things really struck me about the power of the medium of audio. The first was that the way so many of us learn is through stories. It’s been true throughout all of history. But I think it’s even more true today because we are so overloaded with information and so short on time. Stories are a way to go right to our heart and our soul and help make important messages really stick with us. I feel like such an important part of our job is education and storytelling around the role of money in our lives. It’s one additional component we might be able to bring to our clients and our community that would really help. The idea also appealed to me is because of the way so many of us live. We’re out running or driving in cars, and we have these 25-minute blocks of time. We are in a logjam, and we’d like to do something. A podcast can be the perfect thing to download and get a bit of inspiration from.
Q: How do financial planning and storytelling intersect?
A: They do without a doubt. What I have noticed is when I first started in the industry, I couldn’t understand why someone wouldn’t look at a Monte Carlo analysis and not be moved to weepy, joyful action just by looking at the raw numbers. Over time, what I have come to learn about myself and all people is what drives us is what matters to us and what brings us joy. As (author and speaker) Simon Sinek puts it, what is our why in life? Without the story around the why for either what you’re doing or what you need to stop doing, it’s really hard oftentimes to take financial action. Storytelling and conversation can help define those whys.
Q: I know your own background is steeped equally in stats and stories. Is that how the podcast interviews will be too?
A: I am interested, initially at least, in talking to unexpected people around the idea of money. I feel like we are bombarded with so much financial information that oftentimes it feels like our eyes glaze over and it all sounds like more of the same. One of the ways to help wake us up to think about our money in a different way is to have conversations about it with people we might not expect to. And so that is the way I am starting. I have this hunch that we will start to hear from the community about what is interesting and what questions are bubbling up, whether people are interested in the left brain or the right brain.
The thing is, I think so many of us are hard wired to think in terms of the but or the or in a statement. Particularly when it comes to our money … you can have this or that, you can do this or that. But what I’m really trying to do in my own life as I go through a period of transition is to try to use the ampersand and encourage myself to say, “What would it look like if I had this and that?” I think, particularly when it comes to money conversations, it feels like it has to be left brained or right brained, or it’s boring or its woo woo. I think there can be some interesting things happening at the intersection of “&.”
Q: How do you consume your own news?
A: Twenty years ago, a friend recommended a book called “The Artist Way At Work” by Julia Cameron. One of the suggestions she had about adding more creativity to your work life is doing something that she called grazing. Mental grazing is the idea of picking up things that aren’t normally on your radar. So if you’re in the airport and you get that dreaded news that your flight is delayed, you head to the local Hudson News to pick up a magazine you normally wouldn’t read. The info is a little off the beaten path for you, but now 20 years later, we know from the work that’s being done on neuroplasticity that what is going on when you are grazing is that you are starting to activate all these different parts of your brain. That’s why it’s such a wonderful and interesting way to consume information.
Another tool that she had was to plan a date with yourself. I combine both of those tools in my consumption of news and media. It’s an exercise meant to expand your creativity, but I’ve been using it lately as a way to increase my intellectual curiosity so that, each week, I’m trying to read something that is really not part of my normal bailiwick. I live in Portland now, so I’ve been digesting things on tattoo artists and the logistics of running a food cart and how that works. Interestingly enough, reading some of this very disparate information has me thinking about both the investment component of the work we do and the financial planning component of the work we do. Research also shows that the brain responds very well to consistent actions, so I have set up a series of alerts for different news aggregators and read them once in the morning, once in the afternoon and once at the end of the day. Particularly for someone in the financial profession who has the urge to always be “on,” I find those triple bumper rails keep me from falling too deep into the news so I can also do meaningful work.
Q: The industry is changing. How does this project fit into that new world when it comes to how we seek, consume and obtain our financial advice?
A: I think about this a lot and, living in Portland, I’m surrounded by the coffee scene and so I’ll give you a coffee analogy. In the coffee world, there are three waves of the coffee movement. The first wave was Folgers and Maxwell House and the introduction of easy mass market coffee. The second wave was Starbucks and introducing people to specialty coffee drinks. Now there is a movement all across the country called the third wave, which is all about sustainable artisanal coffees. In the financial services world, I feel like we’ve also gone through three waves. The first wave was the old broker model where someone called you and pitched you stock ideas. Wave two was the introduction of the broader type of interplay between investing and your actual end objective — someone thinking about an overall portfolio stratgety and introducing a bit of personal advice and guidance. I think what we are on right now is the third wave, which to me is the really transformative part of the industry where any purveyor of financial advice ideally is a fiduciary, as we are in our community. We have deep financial acumen but we also serve in many respects as a resource for helping clients identify what matters most in life and what brings them the greatest amount of joy, so that the financial steps that are taken are always in alignment with those two things. Many advisors will tell me that one of the most frustrating parts of the business is putting together a really wonderful set of recommendations for your clients and knowing in your heart their lives are going to be transformed if those steps are taken. But then they are not taken. Oftentimes in the clients’ mind, there is some disconnect or lack of clarity between those steps and what really truly matters to them and what brings them joy. There is a lot of talk in the industry about helping identify goals and values. I feel like those two words have become commoditized in many respects. The advisors who use discovery practice in an ongoing client review regiment — the ones who keep honing in on that intersection between what brings their clients joy and their financial steps in a deep, meaningful way — those advisors are the ones who will really transform lives. My hope is this podcast will simply serve as fuel to further those conversations.
To hear more episodes visit The MoneyZen Podcast on SoundCloud.
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